VICIOUS - Too Fast to Live.
The Definitive Biography by Alan Parker.
The 2nd of February 2004 saw the advent of the 25th anniversary of the death of enduring Punk Rock icon, Sid Vicious. It also saw the publication of Alan Parker’s new Sid Vicious biography (basically, Sid's Way2) & the Virgin/EMI release of Too Fast To Live, the all new ‘best of’ Sid Vicious. Parker, who cut his milk teeth writing for the influential Spiral Scratch (seminal affluent 80s fanzine), made his full literary debut in 1999 with Sid’s Way (co-written with Anne Beverley, Sid’s mum).
The Overkill Alarm went off in my head the moment I heard about the re-write. Apparently, Alan had been waiting to tell ‘his’ side of the story for many years but had always had the intimidating shadow of Anne Beverley hanging over him. Her death from a heroin overdose in 1998 finally cleared the decks for a warts & all take on Sid’s Way.
I decided it was time to check out the motivation behind the man & duly popped along to Parker Towers in Madia Vale to quiz the self styled ‘Urban Myth’ about his latest book shaped outing:
trakMARX - Why have we had to wait six-years since the death of Anne Beverley to finally put the record straight?
Parker - Basically, I was approached by EMI & asked to update Sid’s Way to tie in with the anniversary of Sid’s death. I felt it would be the perfect opportunity to tell the story straight - including the material Anne felt painted her son in a bad light.
trakMARX - How well did you know Anne Beverley?
Parker - I first met her in 1988 & knew her until to her death in 1996. During this time I amassed over 30 hours of taped interview, much of which I couldn’t use - at Anne’s insistence.
Is it wise (or subjective, even) to base a biography almost entirely on a mother’s memories of her own son? What exclusive insight could she possibly provide that would paint a reflective portrait (i.e. - true likeness) of the ‘real’ Sidney, John, Simon, Richie, Beverley, Hymie (his male prostitute name), Highwayman, etc, etc. His birth certificate didn’t even match his death certificate. There are so many twists in Sid’s tale it’s dubious (to say the least) to rely so heavily on the words of Anne Beverley.
For example, Anne always spoke fondly about her time in the RAF and often romanticised about this wonderful period of her life - only thing is: she was only actually in the RAF for a brief eight-weeks! Again, Anne has always claimed that Sid was a ‘mummy’s boy’ - this from the same woman who made her son leave the ‘family’ home at the then tender age of 15 (remember this was back in the stone age, 1970) and later recalled how she eventually told him to just fuck off at the age of 17. Anne Beverley spent almost her entire adult life in the company of serious narcotics & had no real involvement with the ‘grown up’ Sid until the latter stages of his life some 4 years later.
To obtain a succinct biographical perspective of a given subject’s many character facets, a multitude of associates need to be closely interviewed. Parker’s anecdotes from ‘those who knew him’ are at best lightweight. Yes, we have quotes from a number of the main Punkers of the day, but nothing that the reader feels convincingly relates directly to the book in question. Parker tells me that he had extensive conversations with Nils Stevenson (RIP - RESPECT - Ed), for example, six-months before his death, as well as chats with Glenn Matlock, Mick Jones and one time road manager, Boogie.
trakMARX - Why didn’t you touch on the Spungen family’s side of events?
Parker - I tried to talk to her bother twice, but he didn’t want to know. Nancy’s mother (Deborah) has never done an interview on the subject, so there was no hope there.
trakMARX - I had heard that Deborah had contacted you when she heard that you where in the throws of doing a follow up to Sid’s Way and requested that a percentage of the profits (10%/15%) should go to her charity: Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia - www.avpphila.org (AVP is a non-profitable, charitable organisation that addresses victims of violence). My understanding was that this wish was agreed in principle at he time. What went wrong?
Parker - We discovered after the initial agreement had been struck that we really needed to realise the book’s publication in America and Japan on a far bigger & better deal than the current UK one to accrue any profits at all! Anyway, the web site isn’t exactly cutting-edge - it hasn’t even been updated since 2001 (It was actually updated in November 2002 - Ed).
Sid Vicious - Too Fast To Live is certainly not a re-write of the Pistols story, per se - it does provide further insight into Sid’s dealings during those dark days of heroin abuse and sheds interesting new light onto the circumstances surrounding Sid and Nancy’s death. Parker made 3 trips to NYC to interview officers from the NYPD who were involved in the events of that tragic night at the Chelsea (Room 100 - Going down - Fact: If you ever go looking for Room 100 at the Chelsea, you won’t find it. These days the Chelsea have Room 99 & Room 101. Please don’t ask the hotel staff for anecdotes - being ejected onto the NYC sidewalk can be embarrassing!).
I won’t reveal the secrets the book holds here - you’ll have to buy a copy for yourself - but I certainly found it entertaining. It’s packed with genuine tales of the ‘true’ Sid Vicious, the usual stock photos (Dennis Morris, Bob Gruen, Roberta Bayley, etc), a splattering of memorabilia, a great NYPD mugshot of Sid and a bit too much cut and paste from the press of the time (13 pages!).
In conclusion, I still feel that the definitive biography of the enigma known as Sid Vicious is still waiting to be written. Of all UK Punk Rock’s icons - Sid remains King. His face can been seen on everything from Top Shop t-shirts, Converse trainers (£200+ a pop) to Action Man dolls. To date, Sid Vicious still remains the least understood member of the Pistols (he is hardly even mentioned within the Sex Pistols ‘own’ film: The Filth And The Fury!).
Parker wraps it up thus: How does a nation review its icons? Look at Marilyn Monroe: one bad actress. James Dean: three bad movies. Sid Vicious: Mr No Talent!
Is talent relevant It’s Punk Rock, after all, and Sid stood up as the most rebellious and outrageous of them all. Sid Vicious - myth or legend
This apparently is the final book Alan is going to be doing on the Pistols, the whole experience is wearing thin, he tells me. His next book is a historical overview of the Carry On films. I love irony, don’t you I would like to thank Alan for his precious moments with me - he is a mate and is a legend in his own lifetime - and don’t just let me tell you that, he will as well!
All here at tMx wish him the best in his future projects. Good on ya, Gimmick!
Suburban Kid - tMx 13 - 02/04